In Case You Missed It: Food Porn From The La Clarine Wine Dinner At Townsend


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Some restaurants host events every single week, but others wait until they’ve got something special going on; a distinctive bottle or two to open or some out-of-town visitors to fête. Such was the occasion last week at Townsend when the sweet spot on Passyunk hosted Sierra Foothills winemakers Caroline Hoel and Hank Beckmeyer from La Clarine Farm.

Natural to the core, these down to earth, yet broadly knowledgeable vintners waxed eloquent on their unorthodox grape blends and the exciting nature of natural winemaking. The biodynamic model of minimally invasive agriculture can be considered at best capricious, and at worst reckless, but is undoubtedly the cutting edge of wine culture internationally. Finding these dynamic, challenging (and often delicious) wines paired attentively and successfully with Townsend Wentz’s take on classic French cuisine was a pleasure.

The meal began with a roasted scallop atop parsnip apple puree, earthy and sweet, punctuated with a dusting of Persian lime. To drink, a daring pairing of La Clarine’s Petit Manseng 2014, the brightness of this pure yet oxidative wine standing up to the scallop’s assertive umami. The second course brought a meaty nugget of sturgeon polonaise topped with a quail egg, all set into a shallow plate of snapper saupiquet, fragrant with thyme and marjoram. To drink? La Clarine’s FNA 2014, a nearly 50/50 blend of Fiano and Arneis.

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A favorite pairing of the evening, and one that Wentz and Townsend sommelier, Lauren Harris, were both excited about, was the Jambalaia Rouge 2014 with third course, a classic foie gras torchon with a sticky bittersweet jam of preserved lemon and Armagnac prunes and sauce foyot. The wine’s pronounced dusty floral characteristics were a lovely match for the richness of the meat and an unexpected pour where one might typically expect to sip something sweeter.

Truffle aroma filled the room when the fourth course arrived, a shallow bowl of meaty richness, oxtail ragout, risotto dusted in Idiazabal cheese, and sheets of shaved black truffle just as earthy as the single vineyard, 100% mourvedre poured alongside.

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The final course of the evening was savory, not sweet: venison en crepinette, with delicate quarters of roasted brussels sprouts, crisp potato fondant, and rich sauce salmis, the classic pairing for game. With this robust course, a robust wine reminiscent of Spanish priorats. Called Josephine & Mariposa, the 70% grenache takes its name from the names of the types of soil in the vineyard itself.

Though Beckmeyer and Hoel have already headed home, they also paid a visit to Coeur while they were here, and rumor has it that Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida snapped up a few bottles that you should be able to find there soon. Alternately, several of these wines are available through the PLCB, and at super reasonable prices. Sad to have missed out on the food more than the wines? Plan a visit to Townsend anyway, because many of the dishes of the evening are available on their fall menu. Or, you could always hold out for the next time Harris and Wentz bring in some out-of-towners.

Townsend [f8b8z]